If you want to get a comfortable and close shave with a cartridge or straight razor, then it is best to shave after showering.
But does this rule always hold true?
What if you are a man that has sensitive skin or often experiences razor bumps? Will shaving before or after showering have any impact on these common ailments? What about the water temperature itself?
Today, we will touch on all these key points and more, along with learning how your shower fits into your shaving routine.
Let’s take a look:
When to Shave Largely Depends on the Razor
While there is no denying that a shower preps your skin for a comfortable and close shave, limitations on whether you should shave before or after the shower depend on your preferred razor system.
Here are all the common razor systems and when they should be used in relation to your shower:
Razors for Shaving After a Shower
Use the following razors once you have stepped out of the shower:
- Straight Edge Razor
- Safety Razor
- Cartridge Razor
- Disposable Razor
- Select Electric Shavers (those only compatible with wet shaving)
Razors for Shaving Before a Shower
A dry shave, where the skin hasn’t been prepped with a pre-shave treatment or with a shower, is best suited for a dry electric shaver only.
The reason is that dry hair follicles are less likely to clog an electric shaver and allow for more comfortable results.
Select electric shavers capable of being used in tandem with shaving cream (i.e. wet shaving) may break this rule as noted in the previous section.
What Happens to Your Skin & Hair When You Shower
To understand when it is best to shave in relation to your shower, it’s important to know what is going on with your skin as you shower. Here are some of the key facts you should be aware of:
Skin Becomes More Pliable
As you shower in warm water, your skin will absorb the water and become much more pliable than it was previously. This allows it to bend easier under the pressure of the razor blade with each pass.
This is helpful in reducing the occurrence of micro-cuts and minor irritation to the skin while shaving.
Hair Becomes Swollen & Softer
Beyond the changing properties of your skin, your hair also softens significantly. If you have ever run your hands over a week’s-old beard, you will instantly feel this softer difference.
The swollen, softer hair allows for the razor blade to slice through the hair shaft with relative ease. This should allow for a reduced number of passes that the razor will need to make over the area that is to be shaved.
Skin Pores Don’t Open and Close
Contrary to popular belief, showering does not open your pores (source). Skin pores are not muscles and thus not capable of opening and closing.
Dead Skin Cells
When you wash your face with a gentle cleanser while in the shower, you are removing dead skin cells, dirt, and grime from the surface. This may help in reducing irritation and making your overall shave a bit more comfortable.
What About Showering in Cold Water?
Very few scientific studies have been done regarding optimal shower temp. One study did compare a cold shower to a hot shower in relation to your immune system (source), but we couldn’t find any when it came to the impact on your shaving regimen.
From personal experience only, we found no noticeable difference on whether a cold shower will yield a closer shave – so don’t torture yourself here.
Does Showering Reduce Razor Burn?
In a roundabout way, showering is helpful in reducing razor burn. However, it is not the leading reason why. As we previously outlined 14 tips to prevent razor burn here, do know that there is a lot at play in achieving a comfortable shave including the sharpness of the razor blade, shaving cream, and most importantly, your technique.
Does Showering Prevent Razor Bumps?
Showering does not have a significant impact on preventing razor bumps. Razor bumps (ingrown hairs) are due to hair being cut close or slightly beneath the surface of the skin as demonstrated in the diagram above. Men with dense, curly facial hair are more susceptible to these painful ailments.
If you are currently experiencing ingrown hairs, you should consider changing your razor, especially if you have a multi-blade cartridge razor. Multi-blade razors employ lift-and-cut (hysteresis) that allows for a closer cut which can increase your susceptibility to razor bumps.
Instead, consider a cartridge razor that has a reduced number of blades, such as the Gillette SkinGuard we recently reviewed, or perhaps a safety razor such as the Bevel razor (reviewed here).
Related: Safety Razors vs. Cartridge Razors
Substitutes to Showers
While showering is undoubtedly the best way to soften both your skin and hair follicles prior to shaving, substitutes and ancillary products do exist should you be simply short on time:
Hot Towel Method
A classic technique used by professional barber shops is to apply a damp hot towel to your face for about a minute before shaving. When this step is done, it not only feels quite amazing, but it will deliver many of those key advantages you attain (softer hair and pliable skin) just as if you were to shower in only a fraction of the time.
Splashing Hot Water
Should you not have a hand towel or washcloth handy for the hot towel method, then simply splashing hot water to your face (as hot as you can tolerate) for a minute can help to still make things measurably more comfortable prior to shaving.
Ancillary Products to Assist
Beyond using water to prep your skin prior to shaving, using a simple pre-shave oil can be helpful in attaining a comfortable shave in lieu of a shower.
Related: What is Pre-shave Oil?
Save Time and Shave in the Shower
Time-saving and cleaner along with optimal skin and hair conditions make shaving in the shower a pleasant experience that yields simply better results.
Not only will all the shaved clippings cleanly wash down the drain, but you also don’t have to worry about shave cream getting all over your body when shaving. Additionally, shaving in the shower ensures that your skin is pliable and the hair swells for a more comfortable shave.
Unfortunately, shaving your face based on memory alone is nearly impossible, even if you shave daily. To allow for a clear view, consider picking up a fogless shaving mirror. You can find them for under $50; they are perhaps one of the best ROIs you can make into your grooming routine.
Don’t worry about them degrading or losing their anti-fog coating quickly. Some of the best picks out there contain a reservoir behind the mirror so it will never fog at all.
Related: Best Fogless Shaving Mirrors
Shaving after showering should help in making things much easier for your skin by reducing minor razor cuts and skin irritation while also allowing for an overall pleasant shaving experience.
We hope that this guide was helpful in elevating your shaving routine.
Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn’s expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.